Carly Fiorina Cries Federalism on Marijuana

Without a clear, crowd-pleasing conservative position on issues like marijuana and same-sex marriage, the safe spot for GOP politicians is in invoking federalism.


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Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has been spouting off this week about marijuana. While she doesn't personally endorse legalizing the "complex chemical substance," Fiorina told Fox & Friends Tuesday that she supports the right of states such as Colorado to "make that choice." 

While I don't support legalized marijuana for a whole host of reasons, including the fact that this is a very complex chemical substance, and when we tell young people it is just like drinking a beer, we are not telling them the truth.

But I think Colorado voters made a choice, I don't support their choice, but I do support their right to make that choice.

We can expect to hear some variation on that statement about 3.7 trillion times between now and November 2016. Without a clear, crowdpleasing conservative position on issues like marijuana legalization and same-sex marriage—issues on which younger Republicans poll closer to Democrats than they do to their conservative elders—the safe spot for GOP politicians is in invoking federalism. 

To libertarians, this may seem like a good thing. But all too often, Republicans' federalism incantation is merely a way to say they'll take partial tyranny if that's all they can get. And unfortunately, this sort of "fair weather federalism" tends to discredit the very notion of a fair and principled position toward letting states be the proverbial laboratories of democracy. "For most progressives federalism is linked not just to conservatism but to reactionary racism," noted Jacob Sullum in 2012.

In other statements, Fiorina does reveal herself to be something other than a traditional drug warrior. Watching her stepdaughter Lori Ann struggle with addiction and eventually die from a drug overdose helped Fiorina come around about drug laws, she said. "This is something that hits really close to home to me, and when we incarcerate people for abuse of drugs, we are not helping them," Fiorina told Fox. "We do have to have a different approach to addictions of all kinds."